Restaging the Story by Crashing the Stage
Milena Bonilla, Luisa Ungar

The four iterations of the project generally called “Pavilion” evolved at crossroads between the history of human zoos in Europe and the rearranging of historical facts on a fictional – staged lecture. Interests went more specific along the process, producing an eventual encounter with the International Colonial and Export Exhibition of Amsterdam (1883), known as the first popular exhibition of this type in which an emphasis was made on the Dutch Colonies; being part of the objectives of the Exhibition to show two groups of people ‘performing’ their own cultures. During the Exhibition, both Javaneses and Surinameses alike had to represent themselves in a more passive or active form, depending on the demands that the intended spectacle entailed. We developed a particular interest on the differentiation between the structural distribution of the body in the space and its correlation with a choreographed - ideologically charged stage, which in its own right displaces the audience’s gaze in order to open up the digestion of fictional encounters with processes of colonization. The interest on the Colonial Exhibition’s stage became a practice of resonance within the actual spaces of our presentations. Throughout the process we focused more and more on building these encounters by playing with the various elements that gave them form, such as the (ethnographic) objects that were collected and organized at the Colonial Exhibition, archival photographs, maps of the stages, inventories of plants and spices, and historical synchronicities; intentionally questioning direct references to the performers. The material we interact with comes from various sources, including the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, Museum Quai Branly in Paris and The National Museum of World Cultures in Leiden. Each of the four presentations of this process made specific connections between the spectacle and the place where it took place: in Madrid, at CA2M, in Medellín at MAMM, in Amsterdam at the Rijks Museum, and in Antwerp at MUKHA. Pavilion´s performances at the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam and at the M KHA in Antwerp, were both commissioned by Sara Giannini for the research and curatorial platform Heterotropics.

Luisa Ungar and Milena Bonilla collaborate since 2014. Their work explores different historical discursivities crossed by questions on power relationships, the performative and narratives of fiction. They have shown and performed in museums and institutions such as MKHA (Antwerp 2018); Rijksmuseum Ateliergebouw and Museumplein (Amsterdam 2017); ArGe Kunst (Bolzano 2017); MAMM (Medellín, 2017); 44 Salón Nacional de Artistas (Pereira 2016); Rupert (Vilnius 2016); CA2M – Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo (Madrid, 2015); Spring Workshop (Hong Kong, 2015); Rong Wrong (Amsterdam, 2014); Bonneffanten Museum (Maastricht, 2014), and Marrakech Biennial Parallel Project (2014).